Cooper relishes captaincy challenge

There will be no-one more nervous than Central Coast Mariners captain Caitlin Cooper during Saturday's Westfield W-League final-round clash with Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

There will be no-one more nervous than Central Coast Mariners captain Caitlin Cooper during Saturday's Westfield W-League final-round clash with Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

Cooper will be watching from the sidelines for the first time in two seasons, after incurring her third yellow card of the campaign last weekend.

The 21-year-old central defender has been a rock at the back for the Mariners and has relished being their inaugural captain.

"It's exciting and a privilege captaining a side,'' she said.

"It's a huge weight on my shoulders but I like the challenge."

"This year there are a lot of players older than me but I like to get the most out of every player."

Born in Wauchope, Cooper's no-nonsense approach was honed while playing against the boys, while her independence grew when she moved to Sydney at age 14 and attended Hills Sports High School.

Her footballing resume quickly expanded to include Australian Schoolgirls and Westfield Young Matildas honours and a host of representative leadership roles.

After a tough first season with the Mariners, Cooper said the increased experience and depth of this season's squad had given it an edge.

"We had a great team but just couldn't perform," Cooper said.

"I think we lacked experience but we have more this year."

With the Mariners and Sydney FC women's squads both borne out of the NSW Institute of Sport program, there is no shortage of rivalry heading into Saturday-s final round.

"We got put into two squads and at the start, everyone called the Mariners the Sydney seconds, but I'm so glad it happened the way it did," Cooper said.

Now the only team standing in the way of a Mariners' premiership is the Sky Blues. There is no chance the visitors will have forgotten their only loss of the season - a painful 3-1 defeat to the Mariners in front of a parochial Sydney crowd in Round 1.

While a draw on Saturday would be enough to keep the Mariners on top, a loss would see Sydney FC claim top spot heading into the semi-finals.

It's not something Cooper wants to happen on her watch.

"We definitely want to go out there and get a win and finish top of the table," she said.

"I can't think of anything worse than losing to Sydney and seeing them go top."

Should the Mariners' winning run stretch to a Westfield W-League championship, Cooper said it would overtake everything she had ever achieved in football.

"It would be massive,'' Cooper said.

"I was vice-captain of the Young Matildas in 2007 but to win (the grand final) would overtake that.''

In the meantime, Cooper will have to be content with cheering her team-mates on against Sydney.

"It kills me but I'll be there for the girls," she said.

"But we'll have Jessica Seaman coming in at the back and I think she'll step up to the plate and do a great job."